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COVID-19 support for the tourism sector

Find out what support is available to help tourism and hospitality businesses in the Highlands and Islands

Tourism and hospitality support and guidance 

For the most up to date information and support relevant to tourism businesses, visit the Find Business Support website.

The site includes information on: preparing to reopen tourism businesses, applying for grants to help with the impact of COVID-19; social distancing – what this mean for your business; business rates (non-domestic rates) changes and extra rates relief; the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme; the job Retention support and deferring VAT and Income Tax payments, and business closures. 

We’ve set out some of the key funding schemes available below, but please ensure you explore the Find Business Support website to see the full range of support available that you could be eligible for and guidance on opening up safely.

  • Updated 13 July: VisitScotland has published detailed information on what visitors can and can not do within the current restrictions when planning a break. 
  • Updated 05 July: COVID-19 tourism and hospitality sector guidance has been updated by the Scottish Government. 
  • Updated 30 June: Business Rates Relief The Scottish Government has introduced extra rates relief discounts to help owners of certain non-domestic properties, including businesses, deal with the impact of coronavirus.

    The discounts include:

    • 1.6% relief on all non-domestic properties in Scotland
    • 100% rates relief for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses
    • 100% rates relief for certain businesses in the aviation industry
    • Small Business Bonus Scheme 
    • Payment deferral
    • Support for water bills

    The 1.6% rates relief was available to non-domestic properties from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021. This would have been applied automatically to your bill.

  • Updated 30 June: Temporary reduced rate of VAT for hospitality and hotel accommodation and attractions The UK Government is allowing VAT-registered businesses to apply a temporary reduced rate of VAT of 5% to certain products and services relating to:
    • hospitality
    • hotel and holiday accommodation
    • admissions to certain attractions

    The temporary reduced rate of 5% has been extended, and will now apply to transactions between 15 July 2020 and 30 September 2021. From 1 October 2021 until 31 March 2022, a VAT rate of 12.5% will apply.

  • 01 June: VisitScotland Destination and Sector Marketing Fund This £3 million fund is open to applications from destination and sectoral groups across Scotland. The Fund will operate across three tiers. 

    Tier one is now closed: City Region Award Programme 
    Awards between £50,000 - £100,000 
    Applications closed at 3pm 29 June 2021. 

    Tier two is now closed: Pan-Scotland Sector Groups & Regional Destination Organisations 
    Awards between £40,000 - £80,000
    Applications closed at 3pm 13 July 2021. 

    Tier three OPEN: Local Destination Organisations, Marketing Groups & non-Pan-Scotland Sector Groups 
    Awards between £10,000 - £20,000 
    Applications close at 3pm 23 July

    Please see the guidance document for full details on eligibility requirements for each tier, and apply on VisitScotland's website.

  • Published 05 December: Campervan and motorhome waste disposal guidance (PDF) has been jointly produced by Highland Council, SEPS and Scottish Water to assist communities, businesses and other organisations who are seeking to respond to the increased infrastructure challenges around responsible disposal of waste water, some of it chemically treated, from campervans’ onboard toilets and drains.
  • Updated 05 December: Traveltech for Scotland is a new organisation launched on 18 August to help Scotland’s beleaguered tourism sector make a sustained recovery driven by technological innovation. It will build a support network for travel technology pioneers whose ingenuity could help turn the sector around following the devastating impacts of Covid-19. The The Scottish Tourism Toolkit has now been turned into an online directory in collaboration with Traveltech for Scotland and went live 04 December. You can also follow the conversation on twitter using #ScottishTourismToolkit 

Please also look at our main financial support page for our most up to date list of all UK and Scottish Government support packages. 

Update 25 June: We're Good To Go

VisitScotland Partners with National Tourism Bodies to Launch Industry Standard for UK Tourism.

A new UK-wide industry standard and consumer mark to provide confidence for visitors, communities and tourism businesses alike, as the sector works towards reopening has been launched. 

To obtain the mark businesses must complete a self-assessment online at including a checklist confirming they have put the necessary processes in place to maintain cleanliness and aid social distancing, before receiving certification and the ‘We’re Good To Go’ mark for display in their premises and online.

Apply online today

Moment for Change - Get Tourism Ready

VisitScotland has created a useful list of guidance, including what has been issued by the Scottish Government, to help the tourism industry get ready to restart.

Currently, we know that most tourism businesses should plan for either 03 July (self-catering only) or 15 July to resume operations. How you prepare to reopen as part of the route map to recovery is crucially important.

Guidance includes:

  • Scottish Government guidance on the steps to reopen
  • Get Tourism Ready checklist of the main things you should consider
  • Guidance available from sector groups
  • Information on the Good to Go industry standard and consumer mark

Go to

Back to Business Webinar: Restarting the tourism sector

Senior representatives from Business Gateway, HIE, VisitScotland and the Midlothian & Borders Tourism Alliance participated in our 'Restarting the tourism sector' webinar on Wednesday 24 June.

The live discussion looked at what we know so far about how the tourism sector can open up whilst still working within the guidance and restrictions caused by COVID-19. Don't worry if you missed it, the full recording is available below.

Playback webinar

Read more +

The Scottish Tourism Emergency Response Group (STERG) - Rebuilding Scotland's tourism industry together

The Scottish Tourism Emergency Response Group (STERG) has been created to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, chaired by VisitScotland. STERG’s immediate priorities are to support tourism businesses to recover from this unprecedented situation.

The COVID-19 National Action Plan has been published and continues to be updated as we progress through the different phases of easing out of lockdown. 

The recovery of the crucial £11 billion tourism industry requires a multi-agency approach, working with the tourism industry to help those affected today, tomorrow and in the future.

The Scottish Tourism Emergency Response Group (STERG) has created a single, joined-up, phased plan to not just combat the current issues but also look at how the industry could effectively recover once the lockdown is eased.

The STERG’s immediate priorities are to support businesses by providing information and reassurance; safeguarding employment, and helping them access financial assistance to maintain cashflow and secure a viable future.

Download the action plan from VisitScotland's website

You can also read more about STERG, its latest actions, meeting notes and how work is progressing to support the tourism industry recover. 

Latest STERG actions

STERG consists of COSLA, HIE, Skills Development Scotland, the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise, South of Scotland Enterprise, the Scottish Tourism Alliance, and chaired by VisitScotland.

Tune Into Tourism

We're encouraging you to tune out of the high volume of webinars and online meetings, and tune in to our series of podcasts.

Our latest series involves a host of industry experts discussing how we re-open, re-connect, customer-led demand around rural tourism, and what responsible tourism means in these current times.

You can also catch up on all the episodes in our 'Road to Recovery' series.

Tune into Tourism

Cyclist stopped on the hills taking a picture of the scenic view on his mobile phone at Cairngorm National Park

National support for tourism and hospitality businesses

We recognise the extreme impact of COVID-19 on businesses operating in and reliant on the tourism sector across our region. We're working closely with the Scottish Government, the Scottish Tourism Alliance and our partner agencies to make sure all businesses impacted are represented as available support is developed.

The Scottish Government continues to develop support packages which are being provided by a range of public agencies, local authorities and partners. Daily updates are also available from the Scottish Tourism Alliance and VisitScotland.

exterior shot of Knockomie Hotel

Knockomie Inn

Find out how this Forres Inn is restarting its business after lockdown.

View case study